“Extent of poverty in our country remains a scandal” – CSAN comment on Autumn Statement

Raymond Friel, CEO, CSAN

Source: Raymond Friel, Caritas Social Action Network

Last Thursday 17 November, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, presented his Autumn Statement to Parliament. This came just under two months after the government’s disastrous mini budget on 23 September, which caused market turmoil with a plan to redistribute wealth to the already wealthy at a time when many were being dragged into poverty by a cost-of-living crisis.

The Autumn Statement is more responsible and measured, with a fairer approach to redistribution, but raises profound questions about the quality of life in the UK and the state of our public services for years to come. Extra funding for health and education is welcome, although it is modest. The most concerning aspect of the approach to public spending is that the most difficult decisions regarding cuts have been put off until 2025, after the next election.

The uprating of benefits in line with inflation, which we called for in our cost-of-living campaign is welcome. However, this uprating is not timely, coming into effect in April 2023. In the meantime, many people relying on benefits will struggle this winter to bridge the gap between their needs and what they receive, with inflation at a 40-year high and energy prices rising steeply. We call on the government to increase benefits in line with inflation immediately.

We are disappointed that no consideration was given to the removal of the two-child cap on universal credit payments, one of the ‘asks’ of the Bishops’ Conference’s Department for Social Justice briefing paper and the CSAN cost-of-living campaign. This is unfair on larger families and should be removed, or at the very least suspended pending a review of its impact.

We are also deeply concerned that the long-awaited social care reforms, a 2019 Conservative Manifesto pledge, will not now be implemented next year as planned.

Andrew Dilnot, who drew up the plans for reform, commented: “Without these reforms, individuals and families facing the possibility of long social care journeys are left entirely on their own, with the state only helping once their assets – including their homes – have dwindled down to the threshold”. We call on the government to honour their pledge to “fix social care” without delay.

The extent of the poverty in our country remains a scandal. In a recent report, the Trussell Trust revealed that 1300 foodbanks across the UK had given out 1.3 million emergency food parcels between 1 April and 30 September this year, an increase of 50% on pre-pandemic levels. This “tsunami of need” as they describe it has put charities at breaking point as they try to respond with diminishing resources.

Patrick O’Dowd, the Director of Caritas Salford, said recently: “Research from the University of Loughborough highlighted that about 228,000 children, we believe, living in Salford diocese are living in poverty. And that’s as high as about 42% of children in Manchester, one of the biggest, most populated areas in the city”. Patrick highlighted how Caritas Salford was working with other Catholic charities and CSAN members, such as the SVP and Out There, to meet the extraordinary level of need.

The economic outlook is bleak. Paul Johnson, the Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said: “The truth is we just got a lot poorer. We are in for a long, hard, unpleasant journey; a journey that has been made more arduous than it might have been by a series of economic own goals”.

The fifty-four member charities of Caritas Social Action Network stand in solidarity with those who experience various forms of poverty which prevent human flourishing. We are inspired by our Gospel mandate to proclaim good news to the poor and to build up God’s kingdom of justice, peace and love. We are committed not only to meeting the humanitarian needs of the present time but also, as Pope Francis said, (in Evangelii Gaudium, 188) “to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor”.

We call upon the Catholic community to write to their MP to amplify our ‘asks’ of the government, revised in the light of the Autumn Statement, to describe the reality of poverty in their community and to share the good news of what the Catholic community is doing to meet this urgent need.

Raymond Friel is the CEO of Caritas Social Action Network

LINKS

For more information on CSAN Cost-of-Living campaign see: www.csan.org.uk/cost-of-living-crisis/

Read full Briefing Paper from the Bishops’ Conference Department for Social Justice: www.cbcew.org.uk/briefing-cost-of-living-crisis/.

Guardian comment: www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/nov/17/delaying-social-care-reforms-jeremy-hunt-uk-vulnerable

www.trusselltrust.org/2022/11/10/almost-1-3-million-emergency-parcels-provided-to-people-across-uk-experiencing-hunger-over-past-six-months-as-cost-of-living-emergency-drives-tsunami-of-need-to-food-banks/

www.cbcew.org.uk/caritas-salford-at-forefront-of-catholic-response-to-cost-of-living-crisis/

https://ifs.org.uk/collections/autumn-statement-2022

www.csan.org.uk/member/

Our Lady of Fatima Parish, West London, win the LiveSimply Award

Hilda McCafferty, Colette Joyce and Fr Richard Nesbitt at the parish of Our Lady of Fatima

Love in Action – Live to Love’ are displayed in large letters on an arch greeting people entering the parish of Our Lady of Fatima in London’s White City. They were immediately welcoming to myself and to Colette Joyce, Co-ordinator of Westminster Justice and Peace Commission, as we visited the parish to assess it for the LiveSimply Award on 17 November. The award is given to Catholic parishes and schools in England and Wales which commit to live more simply and sustainably and to act in solidarity with the world’s poor.

We soon realised that we were in a beacon parish, with multiple initiatives for social justice and care of God’s creation. The parish has now become the seventh parish in Westminster Diocese and one of more than 70 parishes in England and Wales to achieve the award.

So much impressed us as we were shown around by parish priest Fr Richard Nesbitt – who is a trained Laudato Si’ animator – and parishioner Hilda McCafferty, who coordinates justice, peace and ecology work. The space around the church, once fairly bare, has been transformed into a beautiful green oasis which is prized in a built-up area with blocks of five-storey flats surrounding. The garden has been developed, “to increase biodiversity supporting a greater variety of wildlife and an environment where parishioners of all ages can enjoy nature and get more involved in ‘hands-on’ gardening.” Evergreen laurels are supplemented with flowering plants which are friendly to pollinators. In fact, several small insects landed on my glasses as we toured. A water feature and composting bin were nearby. Benches made from recycled plastic welcome parishioners to sit in the parish grounds, where one side has a Grotto and on the other a statue of St Francis with birds. Even on a soggy Autumn day the garden was inviting. We saw photos of a pet blessing in the local park of seven dogs and a cat.

Inside the church doors was a display of the parish LiveSimply project, including posters of a ‘Care of Creation Quiz Night’, a ‘Green Living Fair’, a parish viewing of ‘The Letter’, and ‘We are proud to be a Fairtrade Parish.’ The parish commitment of prohibiting disposable plastic was highlighted. Indeed, the parish has banned the use of throwaway crockery and cutlery in its parish hall and insists on the use of eco-detergents. Battery recycling was available by an entrance. Fair Trade products were on prominent display in the repository, alongside Archbishop Romero crosses produced in El Salvador. This demonstrated that while the parish maintains support for communities in the global south – with volunteering, fundraising and awareness raising for CAFOD, Mary’s Meals and linked parishes in Tanzania and Nigeria – the LiveSimply journey has led it to a commitment to the local community in White City. There are good links with Caritas Westminster and the Catholic Children’s Society.

There is a weekly sale of second-hand clothes – stored in the parish garage – and an annual ethical fashion show is very popular with the young people of the parish, especially Confirmation Candidates who are involved in its organisation. Walking, cycling and car sharing are promoted. In fact, the parish organises free cycling, maintenance and safety awareness classes for people of all ages, as part of an initiative to encourage parishioners to reflect on their transport choices. The Caritas ‘Love in Action’ programme gives parishioners a deeper understanding of the core principles of Catholic Social Teaching, which guides work in the parish. There are regular ‘Live Simply Challenges’ in the parish newsletter and online to encourage consuming less and living more simply and sustainably, such as ‘less wasteful Christmases’ and aspiring “not to have more but to be more.”

Parishioners get involved in supporting on-line and local campaigns on environmental, trade justice and poverty issues. This time last year – during the UN’s COP26 on Climate in Glasgow – a ‘Parliament in the Parish’ was organised involving local MP Andy Slaughter. In April 2022 parishioners joined CAFOD’s Walk Against Hunger. More recently, Hilda joined Westminster Justice and Peace at the London march for the Global Day of Action on Climate, linked to COP27. Around 15 parishioners meet regularly in a ‘Care of Creation’ zoom meeting.

On ‘Living Sustainably’, the parish has established an annual Care for Creation month (mid-September to mid-October) with a variety of events finishing with a parish Creation Mass. This aims to inform, educate and inspire the parish community to the “ecological conversion” which Pope Francis promotes in ‘Laudato Si’. It is also part of a desire for the parish to highlight environmental action within the wider local community. After a carbon footprint/energy usage audit, the parish has insulated buildings and changed all lighting to LED systems. There is an annual parish trip to a local recycling centre and new initiatives considered all the time.

The parish aims to make its parish centre a community hub and has resisted lucrative offers to rent which would have reduced access to the local community. This means regular classes and groups, as well as the Thursday Club for elderly parishioners, organised by Laura Allison, the parish’s Community Support Worker. She told us it was, “the highlight of my week,” and it was great that our visit was on a Thursday. We met senior citizens knitting squares for blankets for Ukraine and one was teaching seminarian John Casey to knit! Anastasia, aged 91, was crocheting a shawl to donate to the cause. Other rooms were used for keep fit classes for seniors, IT training and a ‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle’ upcycling centre run by a Colombian parishioner called Marisol, who has received National Lottery funding to teach sewing and upcycling classes.

A culture of neighbourly care has been developed, with home visits for the housebound, elderly and isolated and transport for housebound parishioners. Weekly vegetarian meals are provided for the wider community, with 70-80 people of all faiths attending regularly. Surplus food is distributed in partnership with charities FoodCycle, Felix Project and City Harvest. The parish newsletter and social media provide regular feedback on the activities.

But back to the church, Colette and I were so impressed by new stained-glass windows in the church, created by London artist Mark Cazalet. Images contained faces which reflected the multi-cultural nature of the parish and background outlines of the White City landscape. Contextual theology was the inspiration, where theology has responded to the dynamics of this specific context. In two collages, saints of colour – such as Josephine Bakhita, Martin de Porres and Andrew Kim Taegon – were honoured alongside Bernadette of Lourdes and Maximilian Kolbe. Just last year the parish produced a book ‘Rooting out Racism from our Parish,’ with the desire to celebrate the diversity of the congregation and counter racism.

A young person in the parish – Alessandro, aged 10 – had been given a wall in the parish centre to decorate on the theme of ‘Love Creation’. The central globe was made of recycled materials; the land area with green bottletops from milk containers. Alongside drawings of flowers he wrote, ‘Save our Colours’. A power station belching out gases was among ‘The Causes of Global Warming’, and a cause of pollution, recognising that air quality is an issue in the area. It was life-affirming to see a young artist given this platform.

Hilda felt the award “will help us appreciate what we have done over the years.” Laura explained that “so many people have put such hard work into building up the parish and community, it is nice for everyone to celebrate.” Fr Richard took the view that, “all this work is an expression of living the Gospel in this real and raw community.”

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, meeting in Leeds last week, commended the LiveSimply Award as a response to Pope Francis’ invitation in Laudato Si’ to “work with generosity and tenderness in protecting this world which God has entrusted to us”. They encouraged all parishes and schools to consider signing up to the award “as a sign of their solidarity with the poor and their desire to live in harmony with God’s creation.”

The programme is administered by CAFOD and first award was given ten years ago, in 2012.

LINK
LiveSimply Award – https://cafod.org.uk/Campaign/LiveSimply-award

Red Wednesday 23rd November – Trio of Events at the Ukrainian Cathedral

To Book visit Aid to the Church in Need website

Red Wednesday Petition

We request that the UK Government call on their Nigerian counterparts to bring to justice those responsible for genocidal attacks such as the Pentecost Sunday 2022 massacre and countless other killings, abductions and other atrocities. The UK Government must demand the arrest and imprisonment of terrorists, the return of lands and villages, as well as compensation for the destruction of properties and livelihoods.

Report from Caritas Westminster Cost-of-Living Conference

Pat Fernandes (Advice for Renters) with Elroy and Laura from White City Parish, where a Community Hub has already been set up to promote social and economic inclusion

Source: Caritas Westminster

On Saturday, 12 November, 56 people from 38 parishes and schools across London and Herts came together to learn more about how they can support their communities in the current Cost of Living Crisis.

The conference was organised by Caritas Westminster alongside Advice for Renters as part of our response to the financial difficulties that are hitting many people in the Diocese at this time.

Sr Silvana Dallanegra, Financial Resilience Lead for Caritas Westminster, was one of the main organisers, with Pat Fernandes from Advice 4 Renters Money. She says: “Our aim wasn’t to tell people how grim things are – they know that already. Our aim was to equip and strengthen them with knowledge and resources around the solutions that are out there, and the organisations that can help. We also wanted to give them more confidence around how to have conversations with people who might be struggling, and how to support them in accessing the help and advice they need. And we also hoped everyone would get the chance to network, and begin learning from each other – which, judging by the buzz during group discussions and breaks, certainly happened!”

Attendees were able to attend a variety of workshops to learn more about debt, loan sharks, credit unions, saving energy and other solutions, in order to better support people in their communities. They were also told about Firm Foundations, our bespoke training programme for Money Champions, which we are planning to run again in 2023. Many of those who came are already helping people as members of the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP), and through provision of food, distribution of supermarket vouchers or other social outreach projects. Everyone said how informative, useful and eye-opening all the sessions had been.

Nicholas O’Donnell from Knebworth SVP said: “This was my first time at this type of event, and I loved the whole day. I have made some useful contacts and learned so many things which will help me in my work. I also benefitted from having Bishop Paul share some of his experience.”

Anne Lamont, from West Green parish told us that the day contained “An excellent range of information, plus the opportunity to network and share ideas – I only wish we could have had longer! I felt we were given practical ideas for action, and for living out Catholic Social Teaching. I’m taking all these ideas back to my parish’s Live Simply group, so that we can consider what practical support and advice we can offer to parishioners in need.”

Workshops were delivered by experts from Advice for Renters Money, Green Doctors, Illegal Money Lending Team, Community Money Advice, London Capital Credit Union and Acts 435, and attendees also had a chance to meet each other and share ideas. Caritas Westminster would also like to thank Andrew O’Neill and his staff at the conference venue: All Saints Catholic College in Ladbroke Grove.

Bishop Paul McAleenan, Chair of Caritas, was present throughout the day. Summing up at the end he commented on how he had been struck that the emphasis throughout – in the presentations and the discussions – was less on the issue or problem, and much more on the person at the heart of the matter. This, he felt, was a clear emphasis on each one’s God-given dignity and worth.

The conference took place on the eve of the World Day of the Poor – a day for to renewing commitment to solidarity with those in our community who are struggling or marginalised. This can be hard when we are all beginning to feel the pinch, but the Pope, in his message for World Day of the Poor 2022 says: “This is the moment for us not to lose heart but to renew our initial motivation. The work we have begun needs to be brought to completion with the same sense of responsibility.”

The conference on Saturday aimed to enable volunteers in social outreach projects to go beyond providing emergency support, to walking alongside people as they find ways to solve problems and reach their potential.

As the Pope also said in his message: “Where the poor are concerned, it is not talk that matters; what matters is rolling up our sleeves and putting our faith into practice through a direct involvement, one that cannot be delegated.”

LINK

Caritas Westminster – www.caritaswestminster.org.uk

Advice for Renters: https://adviceforrenters.org/about-us

COP27 Global Day of Action, London Mobilisation Report

Westminster Justice and Peace at the Global Day of Action, The Strand, London for COP27, 12th November 2022

COP27 GLOBAL DAY OF ACTION MOBILISATION, SATURDAY 12TH NOVEMBER, 11.30AM, LONDON

Westminster Justice & Peace joined CAFOD, the Southern Dioceses Environment Network, Christian Climate Action, Christian Aid, Tearfund, Quakers, Buddhists, Faith for the Climate and many other civic groups on Saturday 12th November for the Global Day of Action rally in Central London on the middle Saturday of COP27, the UN Climate Conference.

The faith bloc gathered at St John’s Church Waterloo, where they were welcomed by Rev Canon Giles Goddard and prayers were said in the garden, before moving to join a larger crowd outside the head office of oil giant Shell building on the Southbank.

Among these were health workers, scientists and campaigners highlighting the plight of climate refugees. Eco-Sikh called for a ‘Loss and Damage Fund Now’. Then thousands marched to Trafalgar Square for a rally.

Colette Joyce, coordinator of Westminster Justice & Peace Commission, who led the Westminster Justice & Peace group on the march said: “The urgency is growing with each year that passes, and so we can and must keep the pressure on to demand tangible results this time.”

Banners carried by pupils from St George’s Catholic Secondary School, Maida Vale

Report on Independent Catholic News

10th November 11am St Martin-in-the-Fields: Service for homeless people who died in past year

Homeless Jesus by Timothy Schmaltz, Farm Street Church

A Service of Commemoration for people who have been homeless who have died in the past year, will take place this Thursday, 10 November 2022 at 11.00am at St Martin-in-the Fields, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 4JH

The Choir with No Name, Streetwise Opera and the Gavin Bryars Ensemble will be performing.

The Service will be followed by refreshments in St Martin’s Hall to which all are welcome.

Revd Richard Carter writes: “Please check your journey plans as there is TFL tube disruption on Thursday. We are hoping as many of you can come as possible by bus, rail bike and foot. All our choirs are still hoping to be with us. We look forward to seeing you at the service and the reception afterwards.”

The service will also be live streamed on: www.facebook.com/stmartininthefields

Watch a short clip from the 2019 service: www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWYkVTVU-tU

The State of Our Common Home in the Aftermath of COP27 with Mathew Lawrence, 17th November 2022, 7-8pm

London Jesuit Centre, 114 Mount Street

Speaker: Mathew Lawrence

Venue: London Jesuit Centre

Date: Thursday 17th November, 7.00-8.00pm

COP26 was described by commentators and political leaders as the ‘last chance saloon’ for global leaders to develop strategies to tackle the problem of climate change. A year on, the world is convulsed by the aftermath of Covid, economic instability and the war in Ukraine. Climate change has slipped down the agenda. Major nations have failed to live up to the obligations made at Cop26 last year and the $100 billion of climate finance which developed nations promised at 2009 would begin in 2020, has been postponed until next year. All the while, the catastrophic affects of climate change are becoming more and more visible in Pakistan, Sudan, California and even here in the UK.

Mathew Lawrence is the founder and Director of Common Wealth, a UK-based think tank that designs ownership models for a democratic and sustainable economy. His recent book Planet On Fire, is subtitled ‘a manifesto for the age of environmental breakdown.’ He will join the Jesuit Centre’s Laudato Si’ Champion – Aidan Cottrell-Boyce – to analyse the outcomes of Cop27. He will discuss future directions which policy-makers should be taking to create a more sustainable economy and will offer advice for ‘all people of good will’ on how best to participate as citizens in this ongoing defence of our common home.

Book with London Jesuit Centre

Suggested Contribution £10

PRAYER FOR THE COP27 CLIMATE SUMMIT

God of blessings,
the universe sings of your glory.
Deepen our gratitude for all you have made
and awaken in us a renewed commitment
to care for the earth and each other.
Inspire world leaders at COP27,
with openness to listen to those most affected by climate change
and with courage to act urgently and wisely,
so that our common home may be healed and restored
and all people, and generations to come, may delight in it.
Amen.

CAFOD

Links

Find out more about COP27

Global Day of Action for the Climate – 12th November 11.30am, London

Southern Dioceses Environment Network – 14th November, 12.45pm, Online

Bishop Paul McAleenan: Address Overcrowding and Poor Conditions at Manston

Photo: Bishop Paul McAleenan speaking with refugees on a visit to Dover earlier this year (Mazur/CBCEW.org.uk)

Source: RCDOW

As reports of overcrowding and poor conditions at Manston migrant centre in Kent emerged, Bishop Paul McAleenan, Lead Bishop for Migrants and Refugees for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, has called for this ‘worrying’ situation to be addressed ‘as a matter of urgency’. In his statement, he writes:

‘Above all we need to remember that migrants and refugees in Manston, like all others who have found their way here are human beings, made in the image of God. Regardless of how or why people have made the journey here, they must be treated with respect and dignity.

‘Reports of people being held in overcrowded and unsafe conditions are worrying and must be addressed as a matter of urgency. It is also imperative that everyone refrains from inflammatory language that undermines people’s humanity and creates tensions between communities.

‘As well as the right to migrate, Catholic social teaching also speaks of the right not to migrate. Often this is overlooked. Our politicians recognising the global phenomenon of migration must work with others in the international community to help create conditions that will eliminate the conflict, poverty and suffering that forces people to leave their own homelands in the first place and undertake dangerous journeys in search of a better life.’

Westminster Justice and Peace E-Bulletin November 2022

Colette Joyce, Westminster Justice & Peace Co-ordinator, writes:

In person events are back! And we have three coming up all on the same day which provide opportunities for formation and action across a range of issues that are currently at the forefront of our minds. Perhaps one or other of them will be of particular interest to you, your friends, family or other parishioners? Please pray for all the organisers who are working hard to enable the Catholic community to respond to the biggest concerns of our day .

12th November, 10.30am-5.00pm
Firm Foundations in a Cost-of-Living Crisis
With Caritas Westminster
All Saints College, 75 St Charles Square, W10 6EL
Includes workshops.
Light lunch provided.
Register with Eventbrite

 12th November, 11am-4pm
National Justice and Peace Network (NJPN) Open Networking Day
‘A Better Kind of Politics’ 
Romero House, 55 Westminster Bridge Rd, London, SE1 7JB.
Facilitated by the Quaker Truth and Integrity Group.
Free.
More details on NJPN Website

12th November, 11.30am-4pm
COP27 Global Day of Action Mobilisation
Start outside St John’s Church, Waterloo, SE1 8TY, for prayers.
Walk to Shell building on the South Bank.
Rally at Trafalgar Square.
Register with CAFOD to let us know you will be joining us on the day
To walk with Westminster Justice & Peace contact Colette colettejoyce@rcdow.org.uk / 07593 434905
More details on COP27

As usual, our E-Bulletin provides many ways to get involved with the responses of our Catholic community and others. We invite you, in particular in the coming weeks, to pray for the government, business and community leaders gathering in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, for the UN Climate Conference, COP27, 6th-18th November 2022. Twenty-six previous such meetings have yet to result in any overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions but the urgency is growing with each year that passes and so we can and must keep the pressure on to demand tangible results this time.  Visit our COP27 webpage to find out more and how to get involved.